I needed contact paper for the kitchen shelves in the house we are care-taking and I was already on Hwy 50 so I decided to take the Zinfandel exit and pulled into the Target that I had shopped for years and if I am being truthful I wanted a White Chocolate Mocha (non-fat) and a Ginger Snap cookie from La Bou. Sipping my mocha I was confronted with a remodel of “my” Target that I found quite delightful as I walked through the doors, however I was unprepared for the rush of emotion and memory that came zooming at me as I chose one of those cool red carts.
I could see my self at 29 with 18 month-old Mychal…30 and pregnant with Taylor…with 2 toddlers in tow… and then little boys following me around the store sipping slushies and eating popcorn (in those days I always kept Target snack money in my wallet:)
The longing I felt for my sons was immediate and brought tears to my eyes, not the little boys of those days but of the men they are today. I wanted to laugh, talk and tease as I walked the aisle, missing all the ways they make fun of me and grin while doing it. When I shopped here before I would wonder who they would become and today I was relishing in the reality of how much of that promise has been fulfilled and is still being unfolded.
Being back in Sacramento has had that affect on me over and over again. And it made me wonder about Naomi because I am feeling a lot like her these days. As she approached Bethlehem with Ruth were her feelings ambivalent? Both excited to return home but wary of the questions that would inevitably be asked…”where is your husband and sons? Who is with you?” Did she juggle excitement and dread at the same time? She left Bethlehem full with a complete family and the hope of a bright future and she returns with loss, staggering, unexplainable loss.
Sometimes life brings circumstances that are hard to imagine and even harder to understand and the loss that comes from all of that is hard to explain. Naomi’s loss was caused by death, which is a complete and final of loss. Our loss came at the hands of those who chose it. Friendly fire is tragic and horrible when it is unintentional and accidental but when it happens purposefully, with no regard to the consequences and damage it will inflict it is unconscionable.
But I learned something very valuable from Naomi don’t try to hide the truth of what you are experiencing, I love when she tells the women to call her Mara (bitter) for a I left full and I have returned empty. So Tim and I tell the truth when people ask us why we are here…”We are jobless, homeless, vagabonds” and then we laugh because to be 50 and college educated and have lived the life we have to be in our circumstance is kinda funny…well when it’s not completely awful.
But Naomi had one thing left and that was a daughter-in-law. Relationship, the kind that matters, the kind that says I will go where you go and I am on your team no matter what. I believe in you and all you have taught me and shown me and I stand with you. Naomi returned to Bethlehem because it was familiar and it was home. She did not know there would be a Kinsman Redeemer…she did not know that there would be a son named Obed…she did not know that she would be in the line of King David..she did not know that her story would be in the living word of God and breathe hope to others who faced bitter roads of loss. All she knows in this moment as she greets the women at the gate is the only thing left to her is this daughter-in-law that isn’t exactly acceptable either and yet that is all that is needed because it is through this relationship that so much will be restored to her.
That has been the case for us as well. Relationship is how I can sit at a desk looking out the window into a charming front yard…Relationship has provided painting jobs for Tim…Relationship is why my hair still looks good:)…Relationship is what gives us joy and hope…And relationship has fed us literally really well. The light of relationship in darkness is the power of the cross…the refuge in the storm…the blessing in the burden.
I was at Cheesecake Factory with a young woman that I have walked truthful journeys with in the past and now the present, we were catching up and sharing each others burdens and after 2 birthday parties at the table next to ours had come and gone we were wrapping it up and she read me a quote from a book she had just finished reading and it hovered and lingered the rest of the night with me…
“Sometimes in life things just happen, without our permission or planning, even the most beautiful things can happen that way.”
I wonder if that is how Naomi felt when she held Obed? Relationship had brought back to her something she thought she would never again experience. It was the foreign, Moabite Daughter-in-law that restored her joy and soothed her bitterness. This was an unexpected, unplanned turn of events.
When you are walking the road of loss it is hard to see that there can and will be a day of resolution to the circumstances that you are trudging but all the while in Naomi’s case the answer to her need was walking right along beside her, sharing her grief, listening to her fears, taking in the journey too.
All of those really deep abiding relationships in our lives are rooted in THE relationship of our life…
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:20